Smartphones emerged as an entrepreneur’s dream come true. It’s a computer that fits in your pocket, enabling you to catch up on emails on the go, communicate with your team constantly, and stay productive even in the most challenging circumstances. And to be sure, they’re fantastic productivity enhancers—when they’re used responsibly.
Unfortunately, they also come with some downsides. If you use them in counterproductive ways, or if you over-rely on them for daily functions, they can end up doing more harm than good.
Sources of Smartphone Harm
These are just some of the ways a smartphone can be detrimental to your business, whether you or your employees are using one:
- Stress. Depending on how you use them, smartphones can be a major source of stress. For example, if you have notifications turned on, you’ll get a buzz every time someone sends you a new message, updates a task in your project management software, or commits some other change to your business. Over time, any buzz can fill you with a sense of dread—and even the lack of a buzz can make you question whether you’re receiving notifications reliably.
- Distraction. Smartphones are also a source of distraction. If you’re trying to finish a report, but your smartphone alerts you to some new update, it can pull you away from your central focus. If you’re in a meeting, trying to knock out a task on your smartphone can pull you out of the conversation and limit your understanding of the issues at hand. Considering it takes 23 minutes to recover fully from a distraction, this is a major issue.
- Work-life balance. The portability of smartphones is both a strength and a weakness. While it enables you to accomplish things on the go, it also serves as a gateway to your professional life when you’re trying to enjoy downtime with your friends and family. This allows it to corrupt your work-life balance if you aren’t careful.
- Impressions. Using your smartphone too often can also leave people with a negative impression of you, or encourage them to partake in the same bad habits. For example, if you constantly check your smartphone in a sit-down with a top employee, they may feel both undervalued and enabled to get distracted by their phones as well.
- False productivity assumptions. Dozens of apps claim to make you more productive, but if you overload your phone with these programs, it’s hard to get anything done, even at your normal rate. You’re too distracted by notifications from different sources and different ways of accomplishing tasks to focus on any one app or approach.
How to Improve Your Habits
Fortunately, there are four simple steps that can help you improve your habits:
- Turn off notifications. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to turn off notifications, especially when you’re trying to focus on something specific. Notifications may alert you to key happenings, but if there’s a true emergency, your team members can always call you or get ahold of you in other ways. Most notifications only serve to distract you, or make you feel more stress than you need to, so eliminate as many of them as possible.
- Leave the smartphone in a drawer. Studies have shown that merely having a smartphone in your general vicinity can compromise your productivity—even if that smartphone is turned off. Accordingly, schedule some time during the day when you want to focus exclusively on a task or project. When that time comes, turn your phone off and put it somewhere out of sight, like in a drawer, until you’re finished or until time is up.
- Limit the number of apps you use. Every app you add to your phone adds to its power and complexity. Too many apps will only serve to distract you, and prevent your truly valuable apps from bringing you their key benefits. Instead of downloading new apps regularly, focus on a handful to make up your productivity arsenal, and work to maximize your effectiveness with them.
- Track your time. Finally, keep track of how you’re spending your time. Are you spending too much time on time-wasting apps? Are those productivity apps sapping more hours than you expected? These data can bring your attention to your overall productivity, and help you fix your bad habits once and for all.
These steps should be easy to understand, but they may pose a challenge during execution. It’s hard to break habits you’ve been unconsciously developing for years—especially if your business has a culture that favors or encourages those habits to develop. Stay consistent in your efforts to improve, and eventually, you’ll see a noticeable difference in your productivity.